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19 August 2020
Kuldeep Bwail

Approaching MEP BIM Projects Using Coordination Specialists

Changing winds bring changing times, and for the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry, one of the most sweeping changes that blew in was the arrival of Building Information Modelling (BIM). A milestone, a game-changer and fast becoming a mandatory official clause, Western governments have recognised the necessity of using BIM technology in construction. Although BIM integrates all disciplines and almost all processes of construction, it is within the MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing), or building services, arena that the use of BIM technology has become critical.

The MEP (M&E) design and contracting industry across the globe faces renewed challenges with the advent of BIM, which is increasingly used by AEC firms. Firstly, of all the major stakeholders involved in an AEC project, building systems design and engineering historically formed the last phase of design. However, BIM dictates a more synchronised approach by all disciplines, requiring them to work in parallel from the early stages of AEC design. Secondly, the facility owners and investors always demand increased efficiency, waste reduction and on-time/in-budget completion.

As a result, progressive MEP engineering firms are increasingly adopting MEP (M&E) BIM practices to:

  • Work in parallel with other disciplines
  • Meet complex project demands from project stakeholders

One of the most compellingly important cogs of the overall BIM process is the MEP or building services coordination, without which serious consequences could ensue. So, why is it critical to MEP BIM services?

The 3D virtual model used in MEP coordination as part of the BIM process offers several benefits. The model:

  • Reduces clashes
  • Enables Mechanical CAD drafting services team (HVAC drafting services team), Electrical drafting team and plumbing design & drafting teams to discuss spatial issues before creating the final MEP BIM model
  • Prevents on-site delays, as it supports the installation details of MEP services layouts and their working
  • Provides secure communication
  • Offers walk-throughs of the model during a demo
  • Standardises the workflow

Two significant advantages that result from MEP coordination services are that it saves time and it saves money.

The coordination of building services systems integrates each service so that any conflicts can be identified and resolved before construction can begin. This is part of the constructability review process. When potential clashes or conflicts are identified and resolved early in the design process, this can result in great savings in project costs. Other advantages are as follows:

Reduction of Rework & Reduction of Material Waste

Correcting errors takes time and sometimes extra material. By using MEP drafting, MEP modelling and then MEP coordination, these errors can be spotted and sorted out early on, reducing rework, minimising material waste and improving efficiency.

Developing Competitive Bids

Precise MEP drawings and the data and details on a 3D model used in coordination can help estimate project costs effectively and can help identify and eliminate costly design discrepancies.

Smooth Workflow

Within the BIM process, virtual planning, 3D modelling and weekly design review meetings can help project stakeholders to collaborate and discuss potential building services conflicts early on, saving time and money.

However, implementing BIM can sometimes pose a challenge, as its adoption requires significant investment in equipment and training as well as changes to the overall workflow and internal processes. Many MEP engineering firms choose to partner with 3D BIM modelling and building services coordination specialists to ease the transition.

  • Such specialists possess expertise of parametric modelling and BIM development.
  • These coordination support firms offer immediate expertise
  • Transitioning from a conventional CAD-based design workflow to a BIM-based MEP workflow requires planning and workflow streamlining methods that many firms are only just implementing. Therefore, the skills to handle such projects immediately are not in place.

How do these specialist MEP coordination firms handle BIM projects and maintain a version-controlled model?

  • While using BIM for pre-construction planning and installation drawings, effective communication and the use of modern collaboration platforms, usually hosted in the cloud, help to maintain a version-controlled model.
  • The BIM managers representing architectural, structural and MEP (M&E) engineering project teams must collaborate and communicate to ensure the integrity of design data and adherence to project deliverables.
  • The MEP (M&E) BIM manager will need to gain insight into the architectural and structural BIM models prepared by the respective teams and use that data for his own input.
  • The MEP (M&E) BIM manager must conduct a detailed review of the current BIM standards of the project, knowing specific components to be used.

The MEP (M&E) BIM manager must then plan the coordination efficiently to include bracketing, lagging, access and maintenance will be taken into account to prepare an MEP central file that serves as a reference point for the downstream MEP design team.

The emerging standard of LOD (level of detail) means that the BIM manager representing the MEP (M&P) team must work to the specified LOD for the project. This will influence the detail within the drawings, whether it is at the schematic design (SD), detailed design (DD) or construction documentation (CD) phase of the project. This ensures that unnecessary elements are removed from the model for the trade subcontractors. Another key decision before the MEP modeling begins is how much customised content (parametric families) will need to be created within the BIM application beyond the data developed in a CAD package and linked to the BIM application.

If the above aspects are considered before initiating a new BIM-enabled MEP (M&E) design project, the MEP (M&E) BIM manager will serve as a primary link between the in-house design team and the architectural/structural BIM managers. As a result, any update on the architectural or structural models will be communicated to the MEP BIM manager, who can then update the MEP central file, which in turn acts a point of reference for the downstream MEP design team to model on. This sets the stage for streamlined and coordinated MEP designs using smart parametric models.

Thus, it can be concluded that MEP coordination services, which are vital to guarantee efficiency and cost-effectiveness for construction projects, should be provided by specialists. As these specialists will need sound technical skills and years of experience to deliver high-quality building services coordination, Western firms may need to seek offshore partners to provide 3D M&E (MEP) coordinated drawings and other associated services. Increasingly, due to their reliability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, offshore firms are becoming the preferred option for MEP BIM projects in the Western world.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing building services coordination and MEP 3D BIM Models for MEP contractors.  Our range of services for building engineering firms, such as consultants and contractors across the world, include MEP drafting, MEP modelling, 3D M&E (MEP) coordination, designing MEP systems and fire design engineering.  We create these models and drawings by using Revit MEP, AutoCAD MEP, Navisworks and BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration.